We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Sunday, February 18, 2024


 Finalists and Judges of the George and Nora London Foundation 2024 Competition 
(Photo by Beth Bergman)

Whilst the esteemed judges (Carolyn Blackwell, Dimitir Pittas, John H. Hauser, and Susan Quittmeyer) were debating over the dozen finalists, audience members were ushered into the lobby where they enjoyed the opportunity to mingle with the finalists, offering hope and encouragement; they were also debating over their favorites and trying to outguess the judges. It is always a tense 45 minutes or so, softened by wine and nuts.

The twelve singers had made a fine showing, one and all. The audience was treated to a particularly diverse and enjoyable program and now were discussing among themselves the relative merits of their favorites.  After this lively and intense interlude, we were welcomed back into the auditorium of The Morgan Library to learn which six singers would receive the generous awards of $10,000 each whilst the other six finalists would be awarded $2000. It is a step upward in the world of vocal competitions to ensure that all finalists receive something. It is not our wont to tell you, Dear Reader, how much each finalist received. If that issue is important to you, we refer you (as we usually do) to the foundation's website.

We prefer to share with you our impressions of our most favored singers which, interestingly enough, were shared by our companion, a professional singer. The opening aria was a stunning one as soprano Adia Evans tackled Elisabeth's aria "Dich teure Halle" from Wagner' Tannhäuser. We liked the way she modulated her sizable instrument, shading it to the demands of the text. Furthermore, her German diction was quite good with no dropping of final consonants.

Baritone Benjamin Dickerson gave an excellent performance of the cynical aria "Nemico della patria" from Giordano's Andrea Chénier. He employed his finely textured instrument in a highly emotional fashion and used the full stage and his entire body to convey Gérard's complex feelings whilst preserving the legato line.
Mezzo-soprano Erin Wagner chose an aria that is a paean to music, sung by The Komponist--"Sein wir wieder gut". This rhythmically difficult aria from Richard Strauss' backstage comedy Ariadne auf Naxos was a fine choice. Ms. Wagner  handled the upper register with aplomb (Strauss wrote it for the soprano fach) and showed us all the intensity of a young composer in a most convincing fashion.

In Elisabetta de Valois' aria "Tu che la vanita" from Verdi's Don Carlo, the soprano gets to show off her skills with bel canto legato and also her wide range of registers. Katerina Burton did not disappoint, evincing a firm center and a pleasing vibrato that shows great promise for other Verdi roles.

Baritone Darren Drone got to perform "Schicchi's Aria" from Puccini's one-act opera Gianni Schicchi and perform he did! We enjoyed the personality with which he filled out the role and experienced all the requisite humor. This artist has personality to spare and so convincingly inhabited the character that his fine technique receded to the background. 

Piano accompaniment was provided by Maestro Michael Fennelly who can play just about anything. At moments when the voice was silent, we noticed his many gifts, especially in Massenet's Sapho and Britten's Peter Grimes.

The remaining singers each showed something noteworthy and if we didn't elaborate here, it is likely because they chose an aria that didn't suit their voice or their style.  Their names can be found on the foundation's website. We enjoyed them all to a great extent and had only two criticism, one of  which we have often mentioned here. We wish tenors wouldn't push their high notes, especially for the climax; we can feel our own throat constrict. It ain't pretty! Learn to float those high notes please!

We also have a criticism for the women. Please do not wear anything gaudy! When you are famous and giving a recital at Carnegie Hall, you can be as glamorous as you please, but when auditioning or competing, it would serve you better to dress simply, so as not to distract from your singing.  'Nuff said!

© meche kroop

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